On March 29, 1903, Gustavus Swift passes away. He is remembered for revolutionizing the meat business from transporting to packaging, a pioneer who brought the farm-to-table concept to the masses.
At age 16, Gustavus Swift founds his meat-making business in Eastham, Massachusetts, with a little help from his family. His father advances him $20 for a heifer, with which Swift makes a $10 profit. Later, his uncle lends him $400 to start his business in earnest.
Poor railcar conditions lead Gustavus Swift to butchering and packing meat before shipping. This, however, limits transportation to only the coldest winter months. So, he hires an engineer to build a ventilated car fit specifically for our products, thereby inventing the refrigerated railcar.
Newly married, Gustavus and Annie Maria Swift open a small butcher shop and slaughterhouse in Sagamore, Massachusetts.The sale of live cattle takes off, becoming the primary focus of the business.
At the turn of the century, we open our first overseas shops in London, England, with the help of newly developed refrigerated boats.
Back home, by 1900 we have meat packing plants across the Midwest from Kansas City, MO, to St. Paul, MN.
Our 1915 ‘Safety First’ campaign cut plant accidents in half.
On behalf of the British Empire, the Prince of Wales visits Chicago to thank American meat producers for the vast quantities of meat sent to the British lines throughout the First World War. As a representative of the industry, Louis F. Swift, son of Gustavus, hosted the Prince and gave him a tour of the Chicago stockyards.
In the 1964 issue of Good Housekeeping, we introduce the world to Swift's Premium Franks, reminding our customers, "meats make the meal nourishing as well as wonderful."
To capitalize on our company’s engineering feat, we purchase railcars from the Peninsular Car Company and convert them into refrigerated railcars, creating the Swift Railway Line (SRL).
When Northwestern University decides to build a headquarters for their new School of Oratory, they turn to Gustavus Swift. His $12,500 donation came with the right to name the building, which he did in memory of his daughter, Annie May, a former Northwestern student who passed in 1889. The hall still stands today, one of the oldest on Northwestern’s campus.
Though World War II calls 20,300 men and women of the Swift organization to serve in the military and auxiliary services, we continue to operate at full capacity. Wartime demand is so high, our sales exceed $1.4 billion.